You guys: this is the fun part of family camping!!!
First Things First: Figure Out What You’re Working With.
Every campground is different, so it’s important to confirm certain details in advance like, is there a dedicated fire ring? What’s the fresh water situation for drinking (COFFEE)? For cleaning? And what are the rules about food storage?
DO NOT SHOP ON THE WAY THERE.
I know it sounds like efficiency to just place your groceries directly into the cooler and GO, but really, you don’t want to do all that prep work at the campsite. Hiking with your wonderstruck children > slicing vegetables.
About That Prep Work…
Your goal should be to make as few dirty dishes as possible while actually camping, so plan accordingly like:
- Pre-wash (and cut, as needed) veggies and fruit for kid-friendly snacks.
- Make like a professional chef and put your pre-measured mise en place in tiny tupperware containers.
- Consider versatile, make-ahead items like chili, hummus, or gravlax. (I know, I need to shut up about gravlax.) I was SO stoked to have Smitten Kitchen Slow-Roasted Tomatoes on-hand to enjoy with leftover breakfast bacon on a picnic-ready sandwich and reheat in foil packets as a dinner side dish.
- I spent the whole trip kicking myself for not making Breakfast Burritos in advance. Don’t blow it.
- Embrace shortcuts like Pillsbury crescent rolls (for wrapping around hot dogs and roasting over the campfire instead of boring old hot dog buns) and frozen french fries.
- Bring hot sauce, OBVS.
- Genius Tip: Fill your water bottles the night before departure and freeze! They’re great for keeping your food cold on the way and provide essential drinking water on arrival.
Plan Your Menu Like You’re Applying to College.
And by that I mean you want a good mix of “safety” meals you know you can execute blindfolded (like Walking Tacos and good ole’ hot dogs) and “reaches” (like this badass Jambalaya) that could be a hot dumpster fire of a disaster that your family still laughs about decades from now.
Foil is Your New BFF.
Your goal should be to make as many things wrapped in foil packets as possible, both because it’s exciting (Orange Peel Cinnamon Rolls!) and means zero clean-up. (Sorry, Earth.) I used it to make fire-roasted salmon and cheese fries (I know!), and reheat brown rice I’d made at ahead of time at home.
Even if your dinner was a hot mess, you can save it with smores. (Especially if you sub in a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup for the Hershey square. You’re welcome.)
And remember: everything tastes better cooked over a campfire. And eaten outside. And after a long day of exercise. So basically, whatever you make is all but guaranteed to be the greatest meal your family has ever eaten.